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Project 50/50 – Week 10 “Swarovski Dreams”
best picture of new york city
Image by w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines)
Inside of the Rockefeller Center is an amazing piece of art hanging above the spiral staircase leading to the ticket counter for "Top of the Rock". As you climb the stairs to go buy your ticket, look up and enjoy this marvel of cut glass. I loved how the light makes the fishing line look like star trails (I’m sure artists have a better name for the monofilament that they used to hang the smaller glass pieces).

If you are ever in New York and are debating between the Empire State Building and "Top of the Rock", don’t think about it too long – Rockefeller is the way to go. The whole experience is awesome, and I think it has a better view.

This shot was taken with a Canon 7d and 15-85 hand held. Later I’ll post a shot of another photographer taking this same picture later on – You can see why your neck will not be happy with you after taking it!

New Yorkers look after their parents
best picture of new york city
Image by Ed Yourdon
This photo was taken on Seventh Avenue South and Perry Street

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This set of photos is based on a very simple concept: walk every block of Manhattan with a camera, and see what happens. To avoid missing anything, walk both sides of the street.

That’s all there is to it …

Of course, if you wanted to be more ambitious, you could also walk the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. But that’s more than I’m willing to commit to at this point, and I’ll leave the remaining boroughs of New York City to other, more adventurous photographers.

Oh, actually, there’s one more small detail: leave the photos alone for a month — unedited, untouched, and unviewed. By the time I actually focus on the first of these "every-block" photos, I will have taken more than 8,000 images on the nearby streets of the Upper West Side — plus another several thousand in Rome, Coney Island, and the various spots in NYC where I traditionally take photos. So I don’t expect to be emotionally attached to any of the "every-block" photos, and hope that I’ll be able to make an objective selection of the ones worth looking at.

As for the criteria that I’ve used to select the small subset of every-block photos that get uploaded to Flickr: there are three. First, I’ll upload any photo that I think is "great," and where I hope the reaction of my Flickr-friends will be, "I have no idea when or where that photo was taken, but it’s really a terrific picture!"

A second criterion has to do with place, and the third involves time. I’m hoping that I’ll take some photos that clearly say, "This is New York!" to anyone who looks at it. Obviously, certain landscape icons like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty would satisfy that criterion; but I’m hoping that I’ll find other, more unexpected examples. I hope that I’ll be able to take some shots that will make a "local" viewer say, "Well, even if that’s not recognizable to someone from another part of the country, or another part of the world, I know that that’s New York!" And there might be some photos where a "non-local" viewer might say, "I had no idea that there was anyplace in New York City that was so interesting/beautiful/ugly/spectacular."

As for the sense of time: I remember wandering around my neighborhood in 2005, photographing various shops, stores, restaurants, and business establishments — and then casually looking at the photos about five years later, and being stunned by how much had changed. Little by little, store by store, day by day, things change … and when you’ve been around as long as I have, it’s even more amazing to go back and look at the photos you took thirty or forty years ago, and ask yourself, "Was it really like that back then? Seriously, did people really wear bell-bottom jeans?"

So, with the expectation that I’ll be looking at these every-block photos five or ten years from now (and maybe you will be, too), I’m going to be doing my best to capture scenes that convey the sense that they were taken in the year 2013 … or at least sometime in the decade of the 2010’s (I have no idea what we’re calling this decade yet). Or maybe they’ll just say to us, "This is what it was like a dozen years after 9-11".

Movie posters are a trivial example of such a time-specific image; I’ve already taken a bunch, and I don’t know if I’ll ultimately decide that they’re worth uploading. Women’s fashion/styles are another obvious example of a time-specific phenomenon; and even though I’m definitely not a fashion expert, I suspected that I’ll be able to look at some images ten years from now and mutter to myself, "Did we really wear shirts like that? Did women really wear those weird skirts that are short in the front, and long in the back? Did everyone in New York have a tattoo?"

Another example: I’m fascinated by the interactions that people have with their cellphones out on the street. It seems that everyone has one, which certainly wasn’t true a decade ago; and it seems that everyone walks down the street with their eyes and their entire conscious attention riveted on this little box-like gadget, utterly oblivious about anything else that might be going on (among other things, that makes it very easy for me to photograph them without their even noticing, particularly if they’ve also got earphones so they can listen to music or carry on a phone conversation). But I can’t help wondering whether this kind of social behavior will seem bizarre a decade from now … especially if our cellphones have become so miniaturized that they’re incorporated into the glasses we wear, or implanted directly into our eyeballs.

Oh, one last thing: I’ve created a customized Google Map to show the precise details of each day’s photo-walk. I’ll be updating it each day, and the most recent part of my every-block journey will be marked in red, to differentiate it from all of the older segments of the journey, which will be shown in blue. You can see the map, and peek at it each day to see where I’ve been, by clicking on this link

URL link to Ed’s every-block progress through Manhattan

If you have any suggestions about places that I should definitely visit to get some good photos, or if you’d like me to photograph you in your little corner of New York City, please let me know. You can send me a Flickr-mail message, or you can email me directly at ed-at-yourdon-dot-com

Stay tuned as the photo-walk continues, block by block …

Two women, poles apart
best picture of new york city
Image by Ed Yourdon
Note: I chose this as my "photo of the day" for Sep 28, 2014.

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About a year ago, I created Flickr album for photos that I had started taking with my iPhone5s; and now I’m creating a new Flickr album for photos that I’ve begun taking with myiPhone6, which just arrived from T-Mobile this morning.

In last year’s album, I wrote, "Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer, it’s hard to walk around with a modern smartphone in your pocket, and not be tempted to use the built-in camera from time-to-time. Veteran photographers typically sneer at such behavior, and most will tell you that they can instantly recognize an iPhone photo, which they mentally reject as being unworthy of any serious attention.

"After using many earlier models of smartphones over the past several years, I was inclined to agree; after all, I always (well, almost always) had a “real” camera in my pocket (or backpack or camera-bag), and it was always capable of taking a much better photographic image than the mediocre, grainy images shot with a camera-phone.

"But still … there were a few occasions when I desperately wanted to capture some photo-worthy event taking place right in front of me, and inevitably it turned out to be the times when I did not have the “real” camera with me. Or I did have it, but it was buried somewhere in a bag, and I knew that the “event” would have disappeared by the time I found the “real" camera and turned it on. By contrast, the smart-phone was always in my pocket (along with my keys and my wallet, it’s one of the three things I consciously grab every time I walk out the door). And I often found that I could turn it on, point it at the photographic scene, and take the picture much faster than I could do the same thing with a “traditional” camera.

"Meanwhile, smartphone cameras have gotten substantially better in the past few years, from a mechanical/hardware perspective; and the software “intelligence” controlling the camera has become amazingly sophisticated. It’s still not on the same level as a “professional” DSLR camera, but for a large majority of the “average” photographic situations we’re likely to encounter in the unplanned moments of our lives, it’s more and more likely to be “good enough.” The old adage of “the best camera is the one you have with you” is more and more relevant these days. For me, 90% of the success in taking a good photo is simply being in the right place at the right time, being aware that the “photo opportunity” is there, and having a camera — any camera — to take advantage of that opportunity. Only 10% of the time does it matter which camera I’m using, or what technical features I’ve managed to use.

"And now, with the recent advent of the iPhone5s, there is one more improvement — which, as far as I can tell, simply does not exist in any of the “professional” cameras. You can take an unlimited number of “burst-mode” shots with the new iPhone, simply by keeping your finger on the shutter button; instead of being limited to just six (as a few of the DSLR cameras currently offer), you can take 10, 20, or even a hundred shots. And then — almost magically — the iPhone will show you which one or two of the large burst of photos was optimally sharp and clear. With a couple of clicks, you can then delete everything else, and retain only the very best one or two from the entire burst.

"With that in mind, I’ve begun using my iPhone5s for more and more “everyday” photo situations out on the street. Since I’m typically photographing ordinary, mundane events, even the one or two “optimal” shots that the camera-phone retains might not be worth showing anyone else … so there is still a lot of pruning and editing to be done, and I’m lucky if 10% of those “optimal” shots are good enough to justify uploading to Flickr and sharing with the rest of the world. Still, it’s an enormous benefit to know that my editing work can begin with photos that are more-or-less “technically” adequate, and that I don’t have to waste even a second reviewing dozens of technically-mediocre shots that are fuzzy, or blurred.

"Oh, yeah, one other minor benefit of the iPhone5s (and presumably most other current brands of smartphone): it automatically geotags every photo and video, without any special effort on the photographer’s part. Only one of my other big, fat cameras (the Sony Alpha SLT A65) has that feature, and I’ve noticed that almost none of the “new” mirrorless cameras have got a built-in GPS thingy that will perform the geotagging…

"I’ve had my iPhone5s for a couple of months now, but I’ve only been using the “burst-mode” photography feature aggressively for the past couple of weeks. As a result, the initial batch of photos that I’m uploading are all taken in the greater-NYC area. But as time goes on, and as my normal travel routine takes me to other parts of the world, I hope to add more and more “everyday” scenes in cities that I might not have the opportunity to photograph in a “serious” way.

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Okay, so now it’s September of 2014, and I’ve got the iPhone 6. They say that the camera is better, and that the internal camera-related hardware/firmware/software is better, too. Obviously, I’ve got the newer iOS, too, and even on the “old” phones, it now supports time-lapse videos along with everything else.

I’ve still got my pocket camera (an amazing little Sony ERX-100 Mark III), and two larger cameras (Sony RX-10, and Sony A7), but I have a feeling that I won’t even be taking them out of the camera bag when I’m out on the street for ordinary day-to-day walking around.

That will depend, obviously, on what kind of photos and videos the iPhone6 is actually capable of taking … so I’m going to try to use it every day, and see what the results look like …

Like I said last year, “stay tuned…"

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